NBA Playoffs: Ranking the Los Angeles Lakers' Most Effective Players Thus Far
With the 2012 NBA Playoffs a couple of games old, we've had enough time for players to establish themselves in their respective series.
The Lakers have looked at ease in both games with Denver only challenging early and on the fast break, which is how their season looked and is the reason why they will, in all likelihood, lose in five games or quite possibly suffer a sweep.
The Lakers, missing Metta World Peace for their first six playoff games after his vicious elbow on James Harden two weeks ago, have got production from various sources both expected and unexpected.
Here's a rundown, from nine through to one, of the Lakers' most effective.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Goudelock, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga
Andrew Goudelock, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga only played in the final 1:58 of Game 1 when the Lakers' lead was assured.
Not enough to really consider them part of the reason the Lakers are 2-0 ahead.
No. 9: Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace has not played a single second of the playoffs thus far, yet he has had an impact on the Lakers.
His suspension for his elbow on James Harden has opened the door for Devin Ebanks to move into the starting lineup and show he has what it takes to be a Laker in the playoffs.
World Peace will return in the next round where, ironically, the Lakers should face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
8: Matt Barnes
In the 48 minutes Matt Barnes has played so far in this series, he has shot 2 for 11 from the floor and 0 for 7 from behind the three-point line for a total of four points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Barnes needs to be coming into the game and providing a consistent scoring and rebounding threat especially now that Metta World Peace is absent.
His plus/minus for the series stands at +3, which perfectly describes how little impact he has on the game.
7: Steve Blake
Steve Blake so far this series: 50 minutes, nine points and five assists. Shooting 3 for 9 from behind the arc so far this series.
He blew the game open in the 1st quarter with a series of three made three-pointers in four attempts that put the Lakers up 26-14.
Other than that, Blake has done well relieving starting point guard Ramon Sessions and has been a non-factor.
6: Devin Ebanks
It feels as if ranking Devin Ebanks sixth is an injustice.
It's more that he's over-achieved and exceeded everyone's expectations when he stepped into the hole left by World Peace.
Ebanks has been a spark for the Lakers as he has battled hard defensively and has come up with some important plays.
His shooting performance in Game 1 (5 for 6) stands out as his breakthrough when he contributed big points to the Laker cause.
When World Peace returns, I would hope that Ebanks keeps his place in the starting lineup.
5: Ramon Sessions
Although Ramon Sessions is running point for the Lakers, he has not been their most effective player.
His stats are all perfectly good, shooting just under 50 percent at 12 for 27 for the series including 2 for 5 from behind the arc.
Sessions is tasked with running the offense and he has done so well, making big shots when relied upon and nearly always making the right play.
It's difficult for a point guard to excel while Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are on the court.
4: Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill has been a revelation for the Lakers so far in the postseason.
He has established himself as the third big in the rotation behind Bynum and Gasol, scoring easily and grabbing key rebounds to help anchor the Laker defense and provide some much needed production and energy from the bench.
Hill so far in these playoffs has 20 rebounds and 16 points on 7 for 15 shooting.
Impressive for someone who only joined the franchise very close to the trade deadline and with little practice to acclimatize.
3: Pau Gasol
It should not come as a surprise that the Laker big men all appear at the top of the list.
The Denver Nuggets are a small team built for playing in transition, so slowing the game down and going into the post with Gasol and Bynum is a sure-fire way for the Lakers to bully their way to success.
Gasol has been playing with playoff intensity—intensity he lacked at times during the regular season.
In the Game 1 blowout, Gasol chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds and crucially, eight assists. When Gasol is on form with his passing, he and Bynum create the deadliest big man duo in the NBA right now.
In Game 2 he posted another 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 50 percent shooting.
2: Kobe Bryant
Bryant's stats are impressive. 69 points over two games on 26 for 53 shooting (just a touch under 50 percent) is exceptional.
Kobe's 38-point Game 2 was his 83rd career playoff game with 30 or more points. Only Michael Jordan (109) has more 30-point playoff games to his name.
Kobe has been scoring almost at will against the Nuggets' abject half-court defense.
However it has been his decision making that has helped the Lakers most of all.
Kobe seems to have realized that if he can get Andre Bynum going and keep him interested, the Lakers could become the surprise Western Conference champions.
His effectiveness so far has been huge, leading all scorers in the series and continually hitting those 'Kobe' shots and hitting the clutch free throws to ice Game 2.
1: Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum has been like a man playing against boys at times against the Nuggets thus far.
His stats after two games: 37 points, 12 blocks and 22 rebounds for a plus/minus of +27.
Bynum has been the focal point of the Lakers so far at both ends of the floor.
His Game 2 triple-double of 10 points, 10 blocks and 13 rebounds led the Lakers to victory and earned Bynum the Laker franchise record for blocked shots in a playoff game (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the old record with nine).
Bynum has bullied his matchup throughout the opening two games and if the Lakers keep him as the centerpiece and he stays engaged (not slipping into immature Bynum mode again), the Lakers can come out of the Western Conference.
Bynum's defense has been impeccable so far this series as he has shut down Al Harrington, preventing Denver's big hope from even beginning to make an impact.
If there was an MVP given out for the opening salvo of the playoffs, Bynum deserves it.